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Published: December 28th 2021
Marjanay Jailoo (Summer Pasture Spot) to Alichur, via The Hot Springs Near Bulunkul Lake
Sleeping altitude 3881m
A big day- you’ve got 76 photos to look at! And a lot to read!
The Four Egg Day
We sat down after the morning’s walk from our pasture land campsite of the night before to our lunch time picnic of 4 boiled eggs. Four cracked, seen better days, boiled eggs. What preceded the 4 boiled eggs? I’ll backtrack…
Getting up with the sun this morning the cows were out and eating the sparse grass, Pharlap and Mustang were also eating the sparse grass. The stream nearby was running to wash last nights dinner dishes (although I suspect the cows, Pharlap and Mustang may have provided a pre-wash) and a cloud lay over the mountains- the first cloud of the trip. After eating the left over soup , bread with cherry jam and marmalade and a big cup of chai, Mohammed decided that we should boil our last remaining 20 eggs (actually there were 38! for a 3 night trek!!!!- we used 4 for dinner 2 nights ago and 12 (!) for lunch yesterday, 2 were
broken). Seemed a decent plan- Bakaah was meeting us for lunch, and we’d probably pick up some shepherds/locals to get through them all.
Packed up and set off at 09:15. A nice walk, bit of uphill to begin with but then a glorious long descent with slight ascents along a dirt track, also doubling as a road. All going swimmingly. For the first time in several days I walked ahead for km’s. Just me, the dirt road, the dried vegetation and the sprawling beautiful chain of Yaishikul Lakes. Took a break waiting for Mohammed, Chamarat, Pharlap and mustang, they then caught up and overtook before I caught up with them again. We set off together and were passed by a jeep. Not 5 minutes later the same jeep came back at speed scaring the horse which m had been riding. The horse reared, M attempted to get off, falling and somersaulting along the dirt track.Meanwhile the horse galloped off at full speed down a ravine, fully loaded with the saddle bags. Chamarat took off, also at full speed, after the horse while I picked up M up off the dirt, LUCKILY, no serious injury other than grazed knuckles. We
The bread’s getting a bit hard
led the donkey (completely unphased by events) and continued up the road to see whether C had caught the horse. He hadn’t, but down the side of the hill were the saddle bags- split into two, landing in two different directions. We slid down attempting to retrieve them, what an effort hauling them back up to the track. At this point M asked me if I had seen his backpack- the back pack with his money belt containing the USD $1500 and record of expenses book!! NOPE! Nowhere to be seen. The horse had already travelled a km before the saddle bags had ripped and fallen- we had a LOT of countryside on a precarious slope to search for a backpack… a smallish camouflage backpack! If M wasn’t already pale from falling off the horse he was now white as a sheet at the prospect of having lost the trip money. He took off to see if there was any sight of the horse as I continued hauling the bags up the cliff. About 5 minutes later C, M and Mustang appeared… Mohammed’s bag still securely tied in place…
With a couple more km’s still to go to the
meeting point we now had the problem of 2 split bags to go back onto the horse. My sun sleeves to the rescue- deftly tied between the bags, Mustang was reloaded and off we went. We eventually met Bakaah at the designated point, it was about 4km south of Bulunkul at a natural hot (warm) spring. It had been built around with stone walls and a pipe and an old bathtub installed. My 4th naked wash in the wilds of Tajikistan this week. The small spring pool had a gravelly floor and was a bout 30cm deep. Mohammed’s parting words before I had a wash were to look out for frogs. Alas, no frogs but another unique experience. Reluctantly got out and was quickly replaced by 4 locals and Mohammed. Time for a picnic lunch.
Of the 20 boiled eggs-16 were smashed to a pulp and that was how we sat down to 4 boiled eggs for lunch.
Post lunch pack up we managed to reduce our supplies further by giving Chamarat the remaining bread, all of the veges, the stockcubes, 1/2 of our coffee, a bottle of condensed milk, pakt of
pasta, pkt of oats, 1/2 bottle of oil… and no eggs. The bill was paid, it always seems to take at least 15 minutes. Gave Chamarat my tip and waved goodbye. Great adventure. So then back in the car, back to the musical repertoire of Bakaahs phone. We passed through Bulunkul- a desolate shanty style town. Lonely Planet rates the lake as “magnificent at morning light” (clearly we there too late in the day!) and Bulunkul as the coldest place in Tajikistan. I thought it was pretty underwhelming and litter strewn, the edges were coated in plastic bottles and green slime. Didn’t actually stop to take a picture. Conversely LP says Yashilkul is less photogenic than Bulunkul- I would 100% disagree. Bakaah cracked 84km/hr on the dirt road out of Bulunkul and back onto the Pamir Highway towards Alichur.
M is very excited- it’s his home town and where his family still live. We reach the outskirts at 2:30, it’s a town of 2 halves- the smaller Tajik side on the the left hand side of the highway, and the larger Kygyz side on the right. Population < 2000, altitude 3942m. B drops us off at the western end
of the Kyrgyz side and we start the 2 1/2 hour journey/tour of 800m to his home.
Stop 1- Kindergarten
Newish, ultra clean, lots of 3-5 year old friendly little kids, tour of the kindy including the kitchen and sleeping room (including little Snow White and the seven dwarf beds- soooo cute!)
Stop 2- Mohammed’s School
Tour of the gym, tour of the class rooms (complete with Tajik side and Kyrgyz side). Very stark. There are some classes in operation. M knows everyone and all of his old teachers are still there, they are all sitting on a bench chatting in the sun. This gives way to a medical consult session when M tells them that I am a nurse. One by one I have a queue of teachers- rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, night time chest pain, low back pain… ultimately we end up in a classroom with 4 desks pushed togther showing the headmaster 3 different stretches to do 3 times/day to strengthen his back…
Stop 3- The Mosque
Utilitarian brick building, loudspeaker for call to prayer. Very quick photo only.
Stop 4- The Hospital
Ambulatory care/hospital catering for
the village as well as outlying areas. they also have a small ambulance for transporting to Murghab or Khorog if required. The hospital was set up with the assistance of the Aga Khan Foundation, it offers free care to all, only medications are to be paid for. It is outstandingly clean. Tour of the hospital with 2 nurses- 3 ward rooms, a delivery room, a clinic room and a doctors office- the doctor is Mohammed’s uncle and it’s his house that I will be sleeping at tonight. There is 1 patient present, it sounds like he has a bacterial sinus infection- can I please see him? (!!!!). turns out he has a box of medication under his bed- Ceftriaxone 1G IV BD for 10 days, Plasmol (Paracetemol), a nasal spray and needles and syringes- sounds like they’ve got it under control to me.
Stop 5- Village Hall
Complete with stage and chairs.
Stop 6- Kindy Teacher’s House
Handcraft stop. I am to look at her wares- lovely carpets, rugs, etc. I try to explain that I am travelling light. I come away with 4 small bags (30S – AUD $3.60 each). She gives me a hat
as a gift. I apologise profusely – I really can’t buy anything substantial as I am travelling light and still have a long trip and Kyrgyzstan to go- appeal to M to help me out!
Stop 7- The Purification Plant
Fresh water pump system installed by an NGO to service the village
Stop 8- Aunty’s House and Yurt
Handicrafts decorate the walls of the yurt. I buy 5 felt ornaments and a small stuffed white dog for 70 S. I tell Mohammed I can’t buy another thing.
Stop 9- Mum’s House
She’s lovely. She’s plump and pretty and friendly. She kisses me. Granma kisses me. We take tea and a light snack (!). The house is beautifully decorated. Tea is MASSIVE- 2 plates of stuffed dumplings with potatoes, onion and spices, to be eaten with yak yoghurt. Delicious. There is also bread, cherry and apricot jam and yak cream (good), a plate of yak butter (not so good), biscuits, sweets, tea and 2 plates of sheep liver- best with yak yoghurt- I try the lot.
Stop 10- Back to Aunty’s….
For dinner (40 minutes later)! EEK. Aunty brings out all of
the above minus the dumplings and liver, but plus a large bowl of sheep and vegetable soup. It is all very delicious. I am humbled by the generosity. I am very, very full. We have a discussion- I’m sleeping here tonight, we’ll have a rest day tomorrow and I will sleep at Mum’s house tomorrow night. M is keen to head over to his Mum’s place and then spend time with his friends, so, at 6:40 having shown me the toilet (spotless), shown me my room and made sure my bed mat was thick enough (it was, but he insisted on an extra mat), and introduced me to the dog so that I wont be a stranger to it and be attacked on the way to the spotless toilet in the night, he and Bakaah are off. My room is off the kitchen and the fire is continuously stoked. I strip down to a t-shirt and crack the window to let in some cool air. Unpack all of my gear to create some order- I need to wash stuff. Everything in my duffel bag that I didn’t need for trekking was stored in B’s car- next to, on top of
or under the extra fuel containers. Everything stinks of petrol. It was really nice though to spread out and have some free time, albeit in my warm little room. Aunty brought me a thermos of hot water, recharged my power pack and said goodnight. I slide her son, Benjamin, a Snickers bar (thankfully not immersed in petrol). Got to have a basin wash in my hot little room, moisturise and de-knotify my hair before calling it a night. Get to put on clean (slightly petrolly smelling) stuff- tshirt and cotton PJ bottoms (bliss). Took ages to get to sleep (I think the dog in the night was worrying me), woke often, dreamt vividly. Finally gave in to getting up for the loo at 04:30… not a dog in sight… should have gone earlier. The upside though- the sunrise just lightening the sky at the edges and silence.
Another pretty cool day (and night)!
Addit-There is one selfie photo in the collection of today’s pics, it sums up how I feel- I think I look truly relaxed and happy. It makes me smile to see it again as I post this blog post.
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